Pun fully intended, Callum Woodhouse continues to show why he’s “All Creatures”’s trickiest casting but also its most successful. This Christmas special is set, appropriately, at Christmas, only war’s on, and no one’s feeling like celebrating this year. Especially not with Nicholas Ralph chomping at the bit for his chance to go—after the proper season’s finale where he and Woodhouse signed up, which was basically the season arc… it turns out they might not get shipped out anyway. They’re exempt because they’re vets or whatever.
There’s no annual Christmas party in the offing, not until Anna Madeley discovers her love interest, Will Thorp, is moving away. She invites him over and then has to put together a party, so it doesn’t look like she just invited him over.
The special filters much of the household goings-on through guest star Ella Bernstein. She’s playing a refugee from… somewhere, presumably in England, though maybe not. She’s Jewish, adorable, precocious, and fascinated by Christmas. She also basically fills the function of Ralph for the special. Ralph and Rachel Shenton are entirely support here.
The veterinary case this episode—outside Bernstein getting to meet Mrs. P. (I’m entirely on board with Patricia Hodge now, even if last we saw the manor, she was getting it ready for the war effort, and now it’s empty) and Tricki Woo (played, as ever, by Derek), who have a kitten problem only a little kid can help with—is about Samuel West and the racehorse he nursed back to health in the regular season. It was a great episode for West. This episode sort of hopes everyone forgets how emotional he got because he quickly finds himself letting old war buddy Michael Maloney bribe him into ignoring some medical conditions.
West’s change in behavior doesn’t go unnoticed, not when Woodhouse comes out to the stables to help out and discovers something suspect.
It’s a very emotion-filled episode for West, Woodhouse, and Madeley, as they once again have to contend with their abnormal but normal, actually, family structure, with great acting from all three. Woodhouse gets to be the stand-out; well, and Madeley, but not in the family arc, though she seems to have a realization about doing emotional labor for the boys).
Besides West’s slightly rushed character arc and a couple of places they obviously cut out another scene for time, it’s a stellar episode.